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Columbia Spectator Staff

A day after his appearance at Columbia, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blasted the United States and other Western powers in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly.

Seldom mentioning Western countries by name, he ticked off a litany of complaints against what he described as "bullying" and "arrogant" powers.

"The arrogant powers have repeatedly accused Iran and have even made military threats and imposed illegal sanctions against it," he said.

He defended his country's nuclear program, which is widely suspected to be aimed at producing nuclear weapons. "All our nuclear activities have been completely peaceful and transparent," he said. "I officially announce that in our opinion the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed."

The Iranian president accused the United States and its allies of hypocrisy in condemning his regime. "Human rights are being extensively violated by certain powers, especially those who pretend to be their exclusive advocates. Setting up secret prisons, abducting persons, trials and secret punishments without any regard to due process, extensive tapping of telephone conversations ... have become commonplace," he said.

"They use various pretexts to occupy sovereign states and cause insecurity and division," he added. "They do not even have the courage to declare their defeat and exit Iraq."

Many global problems, he said, can be traced to the "rule of the incompetent." "How can the incompetent, who cannot even manage and control themselves, rule humanity and arrange its affairs? Unfortunately they have put themselves in the position of God," he continued.

Like his speech at Columbia, Ahmadinejad's U.N. address drew hundreds of protesters who rallied for the expulsion of his regime and for the instatement of a new secular democratic government in Iran. The protesters outside the U.N. addressed some of the same points that President Lee Bollinger made in his cutting introduction of Ahmadinejad on Monday, including the Iranian's crackdown on Iran's university campuses and his treatment of women.

"I don't see him as a human," said Bita Badiee, 24, the daughter of Iranian immigrants. She and her family traveled to New York from their home in Miami to show their support for Ahmadinejad's secular political opponents in Iran and to "expose the Iranian president of everything that he's done."

Protesters supported Maryam Rajavifor, the leader of the political movement that seeks to replace President Ahmadinejad's government in Iran with a secular democracy.

Messages such as "Ahmadinejad—Terrorist, Out of U.N," and images of public hangings in Iran surrounded the area outside the U.N. throughout the day, though the rally remained peaceful, police officers said.

Despite the crowd's ardent anti-Ahmadinejad sentiment, protester Hadi Nikoonejae criticized Columbia's treatment of the Iranian president.

Nikoonejae, who was born in Iran and now lives in Gainesville, Florida, felt that Bollinger went against Iranian custom in not respecting Ahmadinejad's rights as a guest.

"Bollinger does not understand the Iranian people," Nikoonejae said. "I'm against Mr. Ahmadinejad, but in my opinion, Mr. Bollinger insulted the Iranian people."

Some of the featured speakers at yesterday's event included Representative Ted Poe, R-Texas, a former Iraqi Governor, and a Fox News foreign affairs analyst. These and other speakers lashed out against the policies and practices of the Ahmadinejad government. Additional messages from both Democratic and Republican congressmen in support of an "Iranian revolution" were shown on a large projector screen facing the protestors. They were also read aloud to the crowd.

The majority of those at the protest were Iranian immigrants who traveled to New York from around the country to rally for their homeland. Many, such as the Badiee family and Hadi Nikoonejae, had fled to the United States from Iran after the fall of the Shah Reza Pahlavi and his replacement with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Hossein Panah, of the Committee of Iranian-Americans of Virginia, was helping out the cause by distributing free sandwiches and sodas to members of the rally who were hungry not only for Iranian freedom, but also for turkey subs.

Others stumbled upon the event for curiosity's sake. Catherine Harnington, a graduate student in global affairs at New York University, was enjoying the lively scene as she lunched on a bench nearby. "I think it's a really positive sign," Harnington said. "I'm really uplifted by all of this. Any form of debate is a positive thing."

Erin Durkin contributed to this article.
Betsy Morais can be reached at news@columbiaspectator.com.

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